Leaders review bid for Games Baltimore, Washington seek unified approach

December 04, 1997|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,SUN STAFF

Regional business leaders, hoping to land the 2012 Summer Olympics, commenced last night the politically delicate task of melding the competing bids by Washington and Baltimore.

"I think going together makes for a strong American bid, and a strong American bid makes for a strong international bid," said Michael Scanlon, senior vice president of marketing for Metrocall Inc.

He was one of more than 50 business heavyweights who met at Belmont Manor in Elkridge for a catered reception, a pep talk by Atlanta Olympics organizer Billy Payne and a strategy session.

With little dissent, the group agreed that a regional bid would fare better in the fierce, international competition for the Games. But they left to an ad hoc steering committee the difficult decisions about how to integrate the sometimes-antagonistic bidders.

"We've got to get Baltimore and Washington working together and sharing our resources," said Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the highest-ranking government leader in the group.

Chief among the items the new committee, made up of nine executives from around the region, must settle: What to call the Games? Baltimore partisans, noting the fiscal stability and surplus of new sporting venues in Maryland, have argued for the Baltimore Games. Washingtonians, with their own exploratory committee, have stressed the international recognition of the Washington Games.

At stake is more than bragging rights. Olympic rules require not only a single city as host, but also that it financially underwrite the Games. The city providing the guarantee is unlikely to want to see another's name in lights -- and the Olympic history books. Both cities have formed their committees and have made the required $100,000 application deposits to the U.S. Olympic Committee.

John Moag, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority and the leader of Baltimore's Olympic effort, said he happily will live with the decision of the business leaders who ultimately will have to provide much of the funding for the Games.

"It's really semantics. This is an Olympics that's not only going to have impact on Baltimore and Washington but Northern Virginia and all of Maryland, too," Moag said.

His Washington counterpart, Elizabeth Ganzi, said naming the Games is a challenge that she thought could be overcome. "We both think it [the Olympics] is good for the region," she said.

Both organizers made short presentations to the group last night, with Ganzi, the winner of a coin toss, going first. She referred to a "Greater Washington" bid, and Moag called it the "Baltimore-Washington" Games, according to participants.

There have been reports that the International Olympic Committee may ease its requirements that the Games be designated for a single city. Helsinki and Lillehammer have asked if they can jointly play host to the 2006 Winter Games, but a decision has not been made and it's not clear if one will be made in time for Baltimore and Washington to bid jointly.

USOC spokesman Mike Moran said the USOC has not been asked to weigh in on the matter and has not. But it could, he said.

"The rule right now is the Games are awarded to one city. It wasn't the Los Angeles, Long Beach, Anaheim Games," he said.

Last night's meeting was organized by Katharine Graham, chairwoman of the executive committee of the Washington Post Co., and Mary Junck, the Baltimore-based president of Eastern newspapers for the Times Mirror Corp., publisher of The Sun.

"The group believes a combined bid could be a winning bid and is desirable. The steering committee will decide how to do it," Junck said.

The committee is to report back with its recommendations within two months, she said.

One member of the committee, Baltimore attorney and Orioles part-owner George Stamas, said: "This is not about semantics. This is about spirit and athletics. Unity can take the place of semantics, so I don't think we should get hung up on names."

Pub Date: 12/04/97

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